In her new book Off the Sidelines, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) revealed that she had been the target of blatant sexism by one of her "favorite older members of the Senate," whom she declined to identify.
Now we know who it was.
The New York Times reports that the offending senator was the late Daniel Inouye, a Democrat from Hawaii and the second longest-serving senator in history. Inouye passed away in 2012.
Gillibrand recounts in her book that, soon after taking the oath of office, a senior member grabbed her stomach and remarked, "Don't lose too much weight now ... I like my girls chubby." The Times cites "people with knowledge of the incident" in claiming that senator was Inouye.
While discussing the incident, Gillibrand demurred when asked to identify who her harasser was. "It's less important who they are than what they said," she told TIME. Talking to People in advance of the book's publication, Gillibrand chalked her harassment up to the old-boys nature of some in Congress:
"It was all statements that were being made by men who were well into their 60s, 70s or 80s," she says. "They had no clue that those are inappropriate things to say to a pregnant woman or a woman who just had a baby or to women in general."
Gillibrand's recollection of her treatment set off a wave of reflection in Washington and around the country about how even women in positions of power face discrimination and harassment in the workplace. The episode demonstrated to many the absurd double standard that women face professionally, which Gillibrand hinted at during an interview with HuffPost Live in which she discussed the incident:
I've just had a baby, I've just been appointed [to replace Hillary Clinton in the Senate], I have a lot to learn, so much on my plate, and this man basically says to me, 'You're too fat to be elected statewide.' At that moment, if I could have just disappeared, I would have. If I could have just melted in tears, I would have. But I had to just sit there and talk to him ... I didn't hear a word he said, but I wasn't in a place where I could tell him to go fuck himself.
Gillibrand's office declined to confirm or deny to the Times that Inouye was the senator in question.